Saturday, 01 October 2022

Rushing hosts Upper Lake town hall meeting

UPPER LAKE – Upper Lake’s community members got the chance Thursday to let county officials know the issues that matter the most to them, and also to hear the status of several town projects.


Supervisor Denise Rushing hosted the third in a series of town hall meetings in her district on Thursday at the Upper Lake High School cafeteria. Previous meetings took place in Clearlake Oaks in January and Lucerne in February.


Between 50 and 60 people attended the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, which included updates from county officials and an open forum where community members asked questions and, in many cases, got answers.


Deputy Redevelopment Eric Seely gave those gathered a report on the $2 million Main Street Gateway Project. Based on private investment made in Upper Lake’s downtown, the county decided to invest in the project, Seely explained, which is the “single largest project the Redevelopment Agency has taken on,” he said.


The plan will include an archway in downtown, extending and upgrading sidewalks, improving drainage, and installing light poles, trees and bulbouts. Bulbouts help narrow the street at intersections and slow traffic, said Seely.


Before the project can begin, said Seely, utilities lines must be placed underground. Pacific Gas & Electric has told the county that they will start that process in late fall, so the downtown project is scheduled to begin next spring.


County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who followed Seely at the microphone, said the county believes strongly enough in Upper Lake and preserving its unique character that it dedicated $2 million in county funds – not grant monies – to the downtown project.


Cox said there are many other redevelopment projects under way around the county, but that the county is dedicated to doing this major project first, all at once.


In other county projects, Cox reported that the Old Justice Court building recently got a face lift from county workers, and the building is being used by Senior Support Services. The old county road yard, he said, is now occupied by the County Parks Division, which is renovating it to look similar to the historic downtown livery stable. The county plans to have the Upper Lake Library building re-stuccoed, he said, and a new sign installed.


The county is pursuing a downtown revitalization grant, Cox said, and has hired a consultant who will identify the town’s critical historical components, recommend initial improvements to improve and preserve the town’s look, and create preliminary designs and cost estimates.


Cox said the county is looking into installing a town clock, similar to one that is reported to have once existed near the town’s bank.


He commended Rushing for having the town halls, which Cox said have helped the county gather a lot of good community feedback. He said he’s enjoying working with her. “She’s definitely representing your interests,” he added.


A major point of concern for citizens at the meeting is flooding. It was a topic of numerous questions during the open forum, and Pam Francis, deputy director of the county's Water Resources Division, attended the meeting to discuss those concerns and and some of the county’s efforts to reduce flooding.


Upper Lake, said Francis, sits in a hydrological bowl. “Flooding has been a historical problem here,” she said.


In 1959, the state, county and the Army Corps of Engineers built the area’s 14.4 miles of levees to keep flooding at bay, Francis said.


So, why did Upper Lake flood on Dec. 31, 2005? “We had an extraordinary flood event,” Francis explained.


County officials estimate that the December 2005 flood was a “250-year event,” Francis said, which means that each year there is a 2.5 percent chance of such a flood occurring.


Did the levees work? Francis believes they did, because the last flood in the town before 2005 was in 1958.


Francis said there is no way to completely control flooding. However, the county is continuing its efforts to keep flooding at a minimum, including cleaning out the creeks and levees.


In that process, she said, the community has been very helpful, with the county getting 100-percent compliance from every property owner when it came to getting access for cleanups.


A county project is under way that includes removing gravel and brush from the creeks, she said. Another phase of that project will continue this summer.


“I think we’re doing everything we can to mitigate flooding. We’ll never be able to prevent it,” she said.


The county is working on a new long-term permit through the Department of Fish and Game, which Francis said will allow them to conduct levee and creek maintenance more quickly.


During the open question and answer session, Francis also gave a brief update on the Middle Creek Restoration Project, saying it's moving forward and that the county is pursuing funding. They county doesn't have the engineering data to back it up, but Francis believes that project will help reduce flooding as well.


Other issues residents wanted the county to look at included the speed limit along certain roads in and around town and suggestions that the town needs a swimming pool.


Asked about the casino proposed by the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Cox said the county is working with the tribe on dealing with the casino's potential impacts, and they've formed a memorandum of understanding.


“I feel very positive about this agreement,” said Cox, saying the tribe has been very up-front with the county.


Sherry Bridges, a tribal official who attended the meeting, said the tribe plans to hold similar town hall meetings to discuss their plans and progress.


A town hall is planned for the Blue Lakes community in the future, Rushing said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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